Pretend GM: Signings and Trades That Should Be Made

With the big signing of Masahiro Tanaka by the New York Yankees on Wednesday, the market for free agency and trades could explode over the next several days. With that in mind, I was thinking about some deals that would make tremendous sense for several teams…although, they could just make sense to me. Regardless, here are some deals that I’d like to see made over the next few weeks before pitchers and catchers report.

Cincinnati Reds Trade Brandon Phillips to the New York Yankees for Brett Gardner

PhillipsWhy This Trade Makes Sense: The Yankees clearly want to get back to the top, as their $155 million investment in Tanaka showed. With Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, and Scott Sizemore as the current options at second base, New York could use a more reliable name to replace Robinson Cano. While the Reds don’t have an immediate replacement ready for Phillips (outside of Henry Rodriguez or another position change for Billy Hamilton), they need to clear some payroll in order to lock up Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Mike Leake, all of whom are eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, as well as Homer Bailey, who will be a free agent after the 2014 season. Phillips, who is due $50 million over the next four years, could be a bargain based on the current market, while his ability to play defensively at an elite level will provide quite a bit of value, as well. Gardner is unlikely to provide the on-base skills that Shin-Soo Choo provided last season in Cincinnati, but he would provide elite-level defensive skills, speed, and solid on-base skills (career OBP of .352). Gardner, earning $5.6 million in 2014 prior to reaching free agency after the season, would be an upgrade over a 2014 version of Hamilton, while providing quite a bit of financial flexibility to shore up the rotation for the coming seasons in Cincinnati. Even if Cincinnati had to chip in $10 million in salary relief, it would be an interesting deal for both clubs.

Baltimore Orioles Sign A.J. Burnett to a one-year, $14 million deal

burnettWhy This Signing Makes Sense: In 2012, the Baltimore Orioles surprised the world by contending and finishing 2nd in the AL East with 93 wins. In 2013, there was a slight regression, as the team dipped to 85 wins after doing very little over the offseason. The Orioles have been very active in the minor league free agent market this winter, but they could use a splash, and Burnett would be a tremendous addition to the club’s rotation. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, and Kevin Gausman make a good, young rotation, but Burnett would be the anchor for the staff, and his presence would allow the club to move Norris to a (more appropriate) bullpen role. Burnett is from Maryland and he has been rumored to be retiring if he doesn’t re-sign with Pittsburgh, but Baltimore is close to home and he can keep his wife happy, and the spare change for one year would be worth it for both sides. Burnett rebuilt his value with two tremendous seasons with the Pirates, and he is worth a one-year deal for Baltimore for another shot at the AL East for the tattooed right-hander. Sure, it seems like it is going to be Pittsburgh or bust, but the Orioles are contenders with a healthy Manny Machado and consistent production from Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Matt Wieters – the O’s need to do their due diligence here.

Toronto Blue Jays Sign Matt Garza to a five-year, $60 million deal (I know he was rumored to have signed with Milwaukee for four-years, $52 million pending a physical, but it isn’t official…yet)

GarzaWhy This Signing Makes Sense: The Jays need another solid option in their rotation to compliment R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Brandon Morrow, so that their offense isn’t wasted on sloppy rotation options like Esmil Rogers, Ramon Ortiz, Aaron Laffey, and Rickey Romero, who combined to make 27 starts last season. While Garza has some injury concerns, the Blue Jays have already given him a dynamic weapon – Dioner Navarro. With Navarro as his catcher, Garza has logged 338.1 innings and managed a 3.25 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP, while Garza has posted a 4.07 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP with anyone else behind the dish. While there is risk involved due to Garza spending 170 team games on the disabled list the last three seasons with right shoulder and elbow injuries, the Jays need a pitcher who is capable of pitching in the AL East (Garza has done it before), can toss 180 or more innings (Garza has done it four times), and would be a significant upgrade over Rogers, Todd Redmond, and J.A. Happ, while the club waits for Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Alberto Tirado, Daniel Norris, and Sean Nolin to reach the majors. Garza may not be a number one starter, but he is a strong number two or three option on a club that should compete with an absolutely loaded offensive group.

Philadelphia Phillies Sign Ubaldo Jimenez to a five-year, $85 million deal

Why This Signing Makes Sense: The Phillies first round pick, seventh overall, is protected, so while Jimenez would require draft-pick compensation, it would only be a second round pick going to Cleveland for Jimenez. After a tremendous second half in 2013 (1.82 ERA, 1.14 WHIP over 84 innings), Jimenez rebuilt his value, and, at the age of 30, would be a solid right-handed option for the Phillies to place between Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Jimenez has had some success during his career in the NL East:

I Split W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
Atlanta Braves 3 5 3.79 9 0 1 1 54.2 47 25 23 6 28 66 1.372 10.9 2.36
Miami Marlins 1 2 4.07 5 0 0 0 24.1 23 19 11 1 16 31 1.603 11.5 1.94
New York Mets 2 3 3.40 6 0 0 0 39.2 27 15 15 4 21 29 1.210 6.6 1.38
Washington Nationals 5 1 2.61 7 0 0 0 48.1 39 14 14 1 16 36 1.138 6.7 2.25
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2014.

For those who don’t want to do the math, Jimenez is 11-11 with a 3.39 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and a 162:81 K:BB over 167 innings and 27 starts, and while that isn’t perfect, especially in a ballpark that is more favorable to hitters, Jimenez should, at least, be worth the money as an innings eater if he isn’t elite like he was in the second half of 2013. The Phillies may not be contenders, but they’ll always be spenders. They don’t have any arms ready in their system and Jimenez would be a huge upgrade over Roberto Hernandez and Ethan Martin, who appear to be options for the rotation currently.

Oakland Athletics Sign Nelson Cruz to a three-year, $27 million deal

Why This Signing Makes Sense: The Cruz market appears nearly dead after there was draft-pick compensation added to a PED suspension, but Cruz is still just 33 and he is coming off of an All-Star season with solid production (27 home runs and 76 RBI in just 109 games). With very little interest and risk involved, it’s the perfect opportunity for Oakland to swoop in and make an interesting signing. While the club has some solid right-handed pop in Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson, the remainder of the lineup is filled with left-handed hitters, including Josh Reddick, Eric Sogard, Brandon Moss, as well as switch-hitters Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie. Another right-handed, middle-of-the-order bat would be a tremendous addition, as Reddick or Moss could sandwich between Cruz and Cespedes, providing quite a bit of value and production for a team that struggles to find offense in a cavernous home ballpark. However, Cruz has struggled in Oakland, posting a .192/.248/.352 triple-slash in 202 career plate appearances there. The late first round pick and discounted contract, though, could be enough to overlook his struggles, while providing a little more punch to the Oakland lineup.

Texas Rangers Sign Bronson Arroyo to a two-year, $24 million deal

ArroyoWhy This Signing Makes Sense: Arroyo has been homer prone in the past and doesn’t have the stuff to avoid bats, but he has averaged 211 innings pitched over the last nine seasons and is someone whom the Rangers could count on with Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison coming back from injuries and Derek Holland on the shelf until mid-2014. Arroyo survived in a bandbox in Cincinnati over the last eight seasons, so he would be just as likely to post 200-plus innings and an ERA around 4.00 in Texas, especially with spacious ballparks like those in Seattle, Oakland, and Anaheim within the division. There isn’t draft-pick compensation tied to Arroyo, and with Masahiro Tanaka gone and no real hope of acquiring David Price in a trade, the Rangers just need five starting pitchers, and Arroyo is a nice, reliable addition for the middle or back-end of the Texas rotation.

Atlanta Braves Trade Alex Wood to the New York Yankees for Gary Sanchez

Why This Trade Makes Sense: C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, and Hiroki Kuroda make a great top three and Ivan Nova showed drastic improvements last season, but the Yankees are relying on David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren, and Manny Banuelos at the back of the rotation in 2014. While Alex Wood has one of the more violent deliveries you’ll ever see, he has solid stuff and is ready to be productive immediately in a major league rotation. With Brandon Beachy healthy and David Hale and Gavin Floyd capable of filling the back of the Braves rotation, Wood could be expendable for Atlanta to seek a long-term option at catcher with the departure of Brian McCann to the Yankees via free agency. Evan Gattis has a lot of power and Christian Bethancourt has tremendous defensive skills, but neither seem like strong options as an everyday catcher for Atlanta. While Sanchez still needs some seasoning and he could use a change of scenery due to his makeup and maturity concerns, the Braves have several upcoming arms, as usual, and they have a long-term need at catcher. Sanchez could be the answer and the eventual elbow surgery that Wood will need is worth this type of deal for Atlanta, and the production that the Yankees get out of Wood could be useful, as well.

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In Case You Haven’t Noticed…

It’s late in the baseball season and there are a lot of things that could be distracting you, such as following up on Johnny Manziel’s battle with the NCAA, completing your 21 fantasy football drafts, and wondering who will be Ace or Gary when you attend a Halloween party as the Incredibly Gay Duo. While all of those things are important, I present to you the world of baseball that you may have missed due to your fascination of Miley twerking.

  • SorianoYankees’ left fielder Alfonso Soriano leads MLB with 42 RBI and is tied with Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera for the lead in home runs (13) since the All-Star break. The Yankees are 21-16 since Soriano returned to New York and the Yanks are 2.5 games behind Tampa for the second Wild Card spot with 23 games remaining, including seven games against Boston (a four-game series begins today in New York) and three against the Rays.
  • New Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Marlon Byrd is leading the majors in total bases since the All-Star break with 101 (he is tied with teammate Andrew McCutchen and San Diego outfielder Will Venable), and he is tied with Minnesota Twins shortstop Brian Dozier for extra-base hits since the break with 26. Byrd will look to continue his torrid pace in helping lead the Pirates to the NL Central title after the Buccos have already guaranteed their fans with the club’s first winning season since 1992.
  • Washington Nationals’ outfielder Jayson Werth looked like a total waste of a seven-year, $126 million deal after his horrendous first season, 2011, in the nation’s capital, but he has hit .311/.392/.487 over the last two seasons while battling various injuries. If Werth continues his production next season and the Nats get a full, healthy season out of Bryce Harper and their very good pitching staff, the letdown from 2013 will be all forgiven in 2014 with an improved season. Werth, by the way, is 8th in MLB in OPS (.920).
  • Toronto outfielder Rajai Davis doesn’t receive a lot of praise or playing time, but he has 40 stolen bases in just 93 games. With his .313 OBP, Davis has made an appearance on the bases just 93 times in 301 plate appearances. When you take away the two triples and four home runs (since he hasn’t stolen home and he can’t steal a base after a home run), it means that Davis has successfully stolen a base in 46 percent of his appearances on base. With his speed, who needed to wait for Billy Hamilton for an impact base runner?
  • Davis2There are only six players with 30 or more home runs (Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Pedro Alvarez, Paul Goldschmidt, and Adam Dunn) after 22 players reached the tier in 2012 and 24 players reached in 2011. With 17 players within six homers or reaching 30, and several within that group unlikely to do so (I’m looking at you J.J. Hardy and the injured Domonic Brown), the top-tier of sluggers appears to be a very rare breed with pitching being so dominant.

Speaking of pitching…

  • Max Scherzer is sitting at 19-2, but the names of other starting pitchers ranked near the top in wins is quite surprising: Jorge De La Rosa (16), Francisco Liriano (15), Chris Tillman (15), and Bartolo Colon (14) rank in the top eight in the strange statistic. While some writers will look at the win as valuable in determining who should win the Cy Young, it clearly has little use in determining who has been the best pitcher.
  • It’s somewhat disappointing to see numbers fall with the drop in velocity, but that is exactly what has happened to former Cy Young favorites like Justin Verlander (12-10, 3.59 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) and C.C. Sabathia (13-11, 4.86 ERA, 1.35 WHIP). With the fall from grace, though, has come exciting young arms like Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, and Matt Harvey (R.I.P.). Unfortunately for the aging arms, it doesn’t appear to be getting better, as Sabathia has a 6.88 ERA in the second half, while Verlander has a more respectable 3.77 ERA since the break.
  • FernandezSpeaking of those young arms and specifically Jose Fernandez, the young, Cuban-born right-hander has been filthy in the second half. His 0.83 WHIP is tops among all starting pitchers and the 70:13 K:BB in 54 innings is downright nasty. With the Marlins possibly looking to deal their only source of offense, Giancarlo Stanton, this winter, Fernandez will likely continue to post ridiculous numbers without wins going forward, although he has won five games since the break.
  • For all of those still sitting back and waiting for Chris Sale‘s arm to explode, it hasn’t happened. The White Sox ace has been even better in 2013 than he was last season, posting a 2.97 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP while improving his strikeout rate AND his walk rate on a per nine inning basis. After being locked up for five-years, $32.5 million (with team options totalling $26 million over 2018 and 2019), the Pale Hose look very wise in their string-bean investment.
  • R.A. Dickey‘s knuckleball didn’t carry over to the AL East. The veteran right-hander has a 4.30 ERA and 1.27 WHIP after posting a 2.95 ERA and 1.15 WHIP from 2010 through 2012 with the New York Mets. The small parks, the strong teams, and the patient hitters are all a factor in the decline, but when you don’t really know which way the ball is going when using a trick pitch, that kind of makes things difficult, too.
  • DarvishYu Darvish is having an absolutely stupid season. He leads MLB with his 12.0 K/9 and he has struck out 240 of the 722 batters that he has faced (33.2 percent). While some Cy Young voters will look at Scherzer’s 19 wins and look stupid years from now, it is the unhittable Darvish, who has allowed 124 hits in 179.2 innings and a .192 BAA, who deserves the award.

2013 Breakout Candidates

seyfriedIf you had written last offseason that Mike Trout was going to score 129 runs, hit 30 home runs, and steal 49 bases in 139 games, you’d have to have impressive skills, like breasts that can tell you when it is going to rain, like Amanda Seyfried’s character in the movie Mean Girls.

Not everyone can be perfect with their inferences, but at least making predictions can be entertaining…especially when you look back and see how wrong you were months later. How wrong will I be this year? Here are my top breakout candidates for the 2013 MLB season:

Courtesy: fantasyfurnace.com
Courtesy: fantasyfurnace.com

Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays

2012: 11-11, 3.81 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 175:81 K:BB, 177.1 IP

2013 prediction: 17-8, 2.92 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 191:77 K:BB, 208 IP

Why Moore Will Breakout: Over his final 14 starts in 2012, Moore was 6-5 with a 3.01 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, posting a 79:31 K:BB in 77.2 innings, a tremendous improvement over his first half statistics (5-6, 4.42 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 96:50 K:BB in 99.2 IP). He has devastating stuff and an oddly familiar development, nearly mirroring David Price. If he continues that path, Moore will be an elite-level talent in 2013.

Kyle Kendrick, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

2012: 11-12, 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 116:49 K:BB in 159.1 IP (37 games, 25 starts)

2013 prediction: 15-6, 3.46 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 167:60 K:BB in 201 IP

Why Kendrick Will Breakout: Kendrick turns 29 late in the 2013 season, but you have to wonder if finally having a role will allow him to thrive. Since the Phillies traded Vance Worley and let Joe Blanton walk in free agency, he should settle into the No.4 spot behind Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee in the Philadelphia rotation. not to mention, in 12 second half starts in 2012, Kendrick was 7-4 with a 3.20 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and a 51:14 K:BB in 70.1 innings. Kendrick may be overlooked due to the talent ahead of him in the rotation, but he could be a nice addition, especially if the Phillies veteran offensive talent rebounds and stays healthy.

TillmanChris Tillman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

2012: 9-3, 2.93 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 66:24 K:BB in 86 IP

2013 prediction: 16-9, 3.29 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 157:60 K:BB in 205 IP

Why Tillman Will Breakout: Tillman, a former top 25 prospect, saw his fastball jump from 89.5 mph in 2011 to 92.4 mph in 2012, which had a lot to do with his success. Tillman didn’t make his first start for Baltimore until July 4 last season, so a full season could lead to similar results. He had a bright star early in his career and with a solid roster forming around him in Baltimore, there is no reason to think that the soon-to-be 25-year-old can’t continue to establish himself as a viable major league starter.

Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals

2012: .301/.328/.471, 16 2B, 11 HR, 39 RBI in 305 PA

2013 prediction: .298/.339/.483, 26 2B, 17 HR, 71 RBI in 497 PA

Why Perez Will Breakout: Perez is a monster at 6’3″, 245 pounds, and he is healthy after missing time due to knee surgery last season. He won’t even turn 23 until May, but Perez has shown that he can hit in the big leagues over 463 plate appearances over the last two seasons. With Billy Butler settling in as an All-Star quality bat and Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, likely, taking positive steps in their development, Perez’s numbers will likely shoot up in 2013.

DavisIke Davis, 1B, New York Mets

2012: .227/.308/.462, 26 2B, 32 HR, 90 RBI in 584 plate appearances

2013 prediction: .267/.353/.508, 32 2B, 35 HR, 112 RBI in 623 PA

Why Davis Will Breakout: An OPS of .888 with 20 bombs in the second half is one reason to get excited about what Ike Davis could become in his age-26 season in 2013, but a full, healthy season is the most enticing thing to look for. In 2011, Davis shredded his ankle and upon his return in 2012 from that injury, he lost a lot of power after coming down with Valley Fever last spring. After having flu-like symptoms from that illness for several weeks, on top of recovering from his ankle, Davis seemed to find his stroke, but not until he had already posted an ugly .201/.271/.388 line in the first half of the 2012 season. A healthy Ike Davis could become one of the top power hitters in baseball, an elite first baseman, and a great offensive producer for a Mets team with David Wright and very little else offensively. After posting a .246 BABIP in 2012, Davis could have more luck and get back to his career levels (.321 in 2010 and .344 in 2011) for BABIP and come close to 40 home runs.

GoldyPaul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

2012: .286/.359/.490, 43 2B, 20 HR, 82 RBI, 18 SB in 587 PA

2013 prediction: .283/.374/.503, 38 2B, 27 HR, 105 RBI, 13 SB in 613 PA

Why Goldschmidt Will Breakout: Goldschmidt is about to become a superstar and he will be playing the 2013 season at the age of 25. After combining for 65 home runs in High-A and Double-A in 2010 and 2011, the slugging first baseman seems poised to present more of that power at the major league level, transferring some of those 43 doubles from 2012 into more home runs in 2013. Goldschmidt was much better in the first half (.920 OPS) than in the second half (.782 OPS) in 2013, but with adjustments and growth, those numbers could level out, which would make Goldy an All-Star caliber player.

Chris Johnson, 3B, Atlanta Braves

2012: .281/.326/.451, 28 2B, 15 HR, 76 RBI in 528 PA

2013 prediction: .271/.319/.463, 31 2B, 18 HR, 72 RBI in 543 PA

Why Johnson Will Breakout: With Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, and Jason Heyward in the lineup, the only non-threats in the Atlanta Braves’ lineup would appear to be Andrelton Simmons and Johnson. While Johnson will always be a liability due to his defense and inability to take a walk (4.8 percent career walk rate), he does have a bit of power and he should see a lot of fastballs, which will only help his power numbers and contact rates. It is unknown at this point if he is going to win the third base job, as Juan Francisco could take this spot as another free-swinging alternative, but Johnson was solid after being dealt to the Diamondbacks last season, posting an .824 OPS over 44 games with the Snakes.

Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

2012: .260/.305/.463, 19 2B, 19 HR, 51 RBI, 37 SB in 452 PA

2013 prediction: .255/.305/.455, 24 2B, 24 HR, 67 RBI, 47 SB in 574 PA

Why Gomez Will Breakout: The statistics above aren’t really breakout level, but Gomez could surprise a lot of people if he were to repeat or come close to repeating the numbers that he put up last year. To say that Gomez is a free-swinger is an understatement: His 107 career walks in 2,130 plate appearances are just two more than the 105 that Adam Dunn drew in 649 plate appearances in 2012…if you listen closely in the winter, you can hear Gomez swinging a bat somewhere in the world. Gomez has been around for a long time because he was rushed to the bigs by the Mets, a shocking development considering that is what the Mets always do. Still, if Gomez can steal bases, hit home runs, and not have to share his job with the likes of Nyjer Morgan, as he did for part of 2012, he could continue to establish himself as a valuable fantasy and real-life commodity.

fowlerDexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies

2012: .300/.389/.474, 18 2B, 11 3B, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 12 SB in 530 PA

2013 prediction: .280/.378/.469, 22 2B, 8 3B, 17 HR, 22 SB in 642 PA

Why Fowler Will Breakout: Fowler continues to show impressive on-base skills and he has the ability to spray the ball all over the field. He will probably show a significant decrease in the batting average category, as his .390 BABIP was absurd in 2012, but keep in mind that it was .354 in 2011, so he does have quite a bit of luck with where he can put the ball into play in his career. Fowler is an interesting player, as he is heading into his age-27 season (fully in his prime), he has a nice blend of power, speed, and on-base skills, and he plays in a friendly home ballpark in Denver. Look for him to take another step in the right direction in 2013.

GM for the Day: Baltimore Orioles

Well, we finally made it to the American League.  Thanks for your patience and if you’re a Baltimore Orioles fan, I know you have some.  Baltimore finished in last place in the AL East for the 4th straight season and completed their season with a 69-93 record, their 14th straight losing season.  New management and another rebuilding effort is in the works, as the O’s look for a way to get back to the glory of the…70’s…which seems like forever ago to their fans because it was.  Who are the 25-men on the current roster?

2 Catchers: Matt Wieters and Taylor Teagarden

1B: Mark Reynolds

2B: Brian Roberts

3B: Josh Bell

SS: J.J. Hardy

LF: Nolan Reimold

CF: Adam Jones

RF: Nick Markakis

DH: Chris Davis

Bench: Endy Chavez (OF), Robert Andino (INF), Matt Angle (OF)

Starting Pitchers: Jeremy Guthrie, Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada

Relief Pitchers: Jim Johnson, Kevin Gregg, Pedro Strop, Troy Patton, Alfredo Simon, Darren O’Day and Brad Bergeson

The O’s didn’t have the success that they hoped to with the young arms that they were stockpiling.  Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz have been total flops, while Arrieta and Britton seem to look like solid arms, but not really the top of the rotation guys that all four were hoped to become.  Britton still has a shot, though.  Adam Jones finally reached his potential last year, and at age 25, he is either someone to build around or someone to deal.  It sounds like Dan Duquette is in the middle of deciding what that is going to be.  Markakis is solid and average at the same time.  J.J. Hardy looks like a great piece to keep until Manny Machado is ready, and the O’s have some talent in the pipeline to look forward to until they matter again.  If only they moved to the NL Central, they could contend now.

They should probably look to deal Adam Jones.  At 25, Jones is under team control until 2014.  He would be an asset for a team that wants to contend.  He would fit perfectly in the Braves outfield, they could trade Prado and put Jones or Bourn in LF, and he could get one or two of the Braves arms back in return.  But you have to wonder if taking on arms is what the O’s need to do.  They’ve added a couple of arms from Asia this offseason in Chen and Wada, basically eliminating rotation spots for Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter and Chris Tillman…if they even wanted them there in the first place…and their system hasn’t had much luck with developing arms.  Luckily, the Braves have Minor, Teheran, Delgado and Vizcaino ready.  Packaging one of those arms with Edward Salcedo, a highly ranked 3B prospect, would be an excellent package for Jones.

The O’s aren’t going to contend in 2012.  They won’t contend for a few more years.  They need to come to grips with that and start looking at the next wave of talent.  Manny Machado at SS, Dylan and Robert Bundy at starting pitcher, and Jonathan Schoop look like top to above average prospects.  Because of their future being two years out, they shouldn’t be starting anyone over 30.  No more Derrek Lee’s or Vladimir Guerrero’s, even if they sign on the cheap.  This team needs to invest in the draft, international signings, and player development.  With the talent in the AL East, they have no choice but to build a little and THEN start signing talent via Free Agency.  They have to have more key pieces on the field before they start filing holes.  So they should waste their money on signing guys like Edwin Jackson or even spend time checking in on Prince Fielder.  Let other teams spend now.  Trade Nick Markakis to the Red Sox for Ryan Lavarnway and Anthony Renaudo, even though he is young (28 in 2012), you aren’t going to win with him.  J.J. Hardy can help you win some games, but he could also get you a nice return from, say, the Reds, at the trade deadline in 2012 if Zack Cozart doesn’t work out.  Trade Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Roberts to the Rockies for Seth Smith and Hector Gomez, giving the Rockies the solid arm they need to contend now, while the O’s get a spot for a young arm to try to prove themselves again.

There are a lot of things that the Orioles can do in 2012, but winning isn’t one of them.  They have an interesting lineup with Jones, Markakis, Reimold, Hardy and Wieters, but they just don’t have enough consistency out of those guys to win, plus the pitching is just as questionable.  Wada is a Japanese clone of Jamie Moyer, hitting 87-88 with his fastball.  Chen can throw some heat, but he also has had some shoulder issues.  We know that their young arms haven’t been consistent…or good…as Tillman and Matusz have been busts.  But they are young enough to keep getting chances, especially when your team isn’t going to be good.

If you trade Jones, Markakis and Guthrie, it makes for an ugly roster, but after going 69-93 with them and not seeing an end to the losing with four solid teams in front of you in the AL East, you’ve got nothing to lose.  Matt Angle, Reimold, Smith, and Endy Chavez would be your outfielders.  You’ve got a 2B of the future in Gomez on the way (he spent all of 2011 in Double-A), with Machado coming up at SS, and Schoop at 3B.  Lavarnway can play 1B or DH, Reimold could do the same thing.  Draft college players early, high ceiling guys later, maybe get in on Yoennis Cespedes, the CF from Cuba and get him now.  Why not?  He’s someone to plug-in now.  How would that change the roster for 2012:

2 Catchers: Matt Wieters and Taylor Teagarden

1B: Nolan Reimold

2B: Ryan Adams (.284/.341/.454, 28 2B, 10 HR in 94 games at Triple-A in ’11)

3B: Mark Reynolds

SS: J.J. Hardy

LF: Seth Smith

CF: Yoennis Cespedes

RF: Endy Chavez

DH: Ryan Lavarnway

Bench: Robert Andino (INF), Matt Angle (OF) and Chris Davis (1B/3B)

Starting Pitching: Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Chen/Wada (whoever looks best in Spring)

Relief Pitchers:  Jim Johnson, Kevin Gregg, Pedro Strop, Troy Patton, Alfredo Simon, Darren O’Day and Brad Bergeson

The fake deals that I made would make Hector Gomez (2B in 2013?), Anthony Renaudo (#3 pitcher in 2013?), Randall Delgado/Arodys Vizcaino/Mike Minor (#2 pitcher in 2013?), and Edward Salcedo (3B in 2014) a part of the organization.  They’re solid guys who could force the O’s to move other players around, like Schoop to 2B or Salcedo to 1B (as his defense is still weak/raw).  It is all made up and some of the deals may not be possible, but it is worth a shot.  The O’s won’t win again until they build from within to create their own talent.  See the Blue Jays, Rangers and Rays for current examples of this type of development.